An Oakland Raiders Fan Feels Sorry For Cincinnati Reds Fans (And Johnny Cueto)

[Note: I am an Oakland Raiders fan. The Raiders have been the losingest football team in the NFL since 2003. Despite how bad things get for the Raiders, something always sucks for another team. I'm here to provide company for your misery.]

"I really thought it started with the crowd, it started with our atmosphere," said Andrew McCutchen on the Pirates' first playoff win since I was entering the first grade. "It was great to see everybody wearing all black. If I was the other team, I definitely wouldn't want to be here. I wouldn't want to play here because of how loud it was. Just to have all those fans into it, into the game, it says a lot."

McCutchen said that he wanted the Pittsburgh faithful to black out PNC Park a day before the Buccos hosted their first playoff game in more than two decades. Pirates fans showed up in all black, but that wasn't all they did for the Pirates in the first playoff game of the 2013 season. During the Reds' player introductions, the public address announcer was drowned out by chants of "Lets Go Bucs," and they sustained their enthusiasm throughout the contest.

Marlon Byrd led off the bottom of the second inning with a solo shot to left field, and PNC erupted as fireworks lit up the centerfield skies. The noise level grew, but the crowd came together to chant in unison.

"CUUUUUEEEEETOOOOOOOOO!" they sung to the Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher, Johnny Cueto, who was 13-4 lifetime against the Pirates, the team he had his lowest ERA against with a minimum of five starts. "CUUUUUEEEEETOOOOOOOOO," they'd repeat over and over and over again with the rhythm of a fire truck that had its pitch knocked down a few octaves.

"It definitely felt like the crowd had an impact on his psyche a little bit," said Russell Martin, the Pittsburgh Pirates' catcher who hit two solo shots on the night, one immediately after Cueto dropped the ball off the side of the bump as the crowd chanted.


With those Cueto chants, the PNC crowd inveigled its way to a hanging fastball over the plate for Martin, one which he graciously sent back to his Pirates constituency.

More fireworks.

How dubious could a man feel in a place that treated its guests that way? The mound is usually a haven for a pitcher of Cueto's stature, but it was the PNC crowd that left in the state of satiety. The chants were damn near palpable; Cueto was essentially rubbing his face against the rugged texture of the profusion of voices, combing his beard with the chorus.

After Cueto dropped the baseball, you could see the anxiety in every single one of those dreadlocks as the crowd stopped its chant for a sarcastic cheer. Pirates fans were waving flags and swinging shirts over their heads as Cueto re-approached the rubber — crowd reignighting the chant. TBS cut to a close-up to Cueto right before he entered the stretch; he inhaled a deep breath and exhaled the heebie-jeebies.

This wasn't the moment Cueto signed up for.

Ryan Hanigan gave his signal. Hanigan set up low and outside. Cueto delivered up and over the plate. Cueto's pitch was crushed. Obliterated. Demolished. Those old Batman comics didn't have enough onomatopoeias to describe what happened when Martin's bat made contact with Cueto's pitch.

Another close-up on Cueto showed him rubbing that freshly combed beard, eyes wide open, chewing his gum with an intensity only previously seen after Michael Jordan didn't get the calls he felt he deserved. After Martin finished rounding the bases, TBS showed a replay of the home run, with its Pitch Trax showing that Cueto missed badly. The pitch was, literally, dead center of the strike zone. Martin got his whole barrel on it, and Dusty Baker pulled one of Phil Jackson's old moves — he let Cueto keep pitching. No time taken to settle him down. No time taken to share a few words of advice.

Cueto wouldn't last much longer. He'd be pulled in the fourth inning and would have to watch his Reds lose their fifth consecutive elimination game in postseason play.

Kids grow up wanting to hear their respective names be chanted by thousands of fans on the biggest of stages. Nothing screams be careful what you wish for better than the good folks at PNC Park.

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